Ghana's Broadcasting Confusion: Redressing Structural Deficits in Public Service Broadcasting

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Journal of Communications, Media & Society
It can be suggested that the grand idea underpinning the media's claim to being the 'forth estate' of government in a democracy is resolved in the Habermasian (Habermas 1989) ethos: the media can add another layer to the checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial functions of government by providing a space wherein the governed can participate in the discussions that affect their lives in a direct way. Habermas called this space the public sphere, describing it “as a space or place in which social debate happens freely to form public opinion as the best way to achieve social goals” (Tayman 2012, pg. 110). Further, it is suggested that this type of “public communication” has potential to serve as a model for social integration (McCauley et al., 2003: xviii). Thus, the idea is that the public's participation in government can not only rely on the indirect processes of representative government. Whether the use of the media as a participatory mechanism proves to be reactive or proactive depends on the level of sophistication that the media system, within any democracy, can operationalize in bringing the citizen's voice to the fore in a participatory manner. The key is in how well the media, especially that which is designated as publicly-owned, understands this role. This paper focuses on the key constructs of ownership, control and access within the value chain of public service broadcasting, as set out in Tayman (2012), with regards to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, and links its arguments to the Public Broadcasting Service standards as argued by Banerjee and Seneviratne (2005). It seeks to challenge the current situation in offering an alternative governance system for enabling a more beneficial service in aid of Ghana's social development and suggests a better model of thinking about public service broadcasting. This paper analyzes some structural problems and proposes remedies to them within Ghana's circumstances. These circumstances are not uncommon in Africa, and therefore the arguments may well apply to similar countries on the continent.
Research Article